March 14, 2014

Editorial

This Lent, take care of and share all of God’s gifts

What does it mean to be responsible stewards of all God’s gifts?

One of the Franciscan values that the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg have shared with the ministries they sponsor, including Marian University in Indianapolis, is “responsible stewardship.”

The American bishops in their 1992 pastoral letter, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response,” described a responsible Christian steward as “one who accepts God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them generously with others out of justice and love, and returns them to the Lord with increase.”

Christian stewards are grateful, responsible, generous and productive. They don’t bury their talents—spiritual or material—but grow them and give them back to God with increase.

Stewardship is also the act of taking care of and sharing all of God’s gifts. Responsible stewardship addresses our responsibility to take good care of all of God’s gifts—our minds, our emotions, our bodies, our souls, our skills and talents, our spouses and families, our neighbors (especially the poor and vulnerable), our material possessions, our finances and, of course, our planet (air, water, land).

As stewards, we are to care for all that God has given us, and we will be held accountable for how we have taken care of (and shared) the gifts God has given us.

In his encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI referred to environmental stewardship several times. He wrote about the “pressing moral need for renewed solidarity” on environmental issues both between countries and individuals, since God gives the environment to everyone. Our use of it thus entails a personal responsibility toward humanity as a whole, and in particular toward the poor and toward future generations (#49).

Pope Francis often reminds us of the link between environmental stewardship and care for our fellow human beings—especially those in need.

In a recent address to the Vatican’s Diplomatic Corps, Pope Francis said, “I wish to mention another threat to peace, which arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Even if nature is at our disposition, all too often we do not respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations. Here too what is crucial is responsibility on the part of all in pursuing, in a spirit of fraternity, policies respectful of this Earth which is our common home.”

Then Pope Francis repeats a popular saying: “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature—creation—is mistreated, she never forgives!”

As all recent popes have affirmed, the Church is not only committed to promoting the protection of land, water and air as gifts of the Creator destined to everyone, but above all she seeks to protect humankind from self-destruction.

By respecting, and caring for, human life, the Church insists we grow in our ability to respect and care for God’s gift of creation. Respect for the sacredness of human life is a profound expression of Christian stewardship. To be pro-life is to be a responsible steward of God’s most precious gift.

In order for us to be good stewards of creation, we must first acknowledge God’s role as the true owner of everything that exists. Our proper role as stewards is to express our gratitude, in words and in action, and to nurture and protect all that the Creator God has entrusted to our care.

For this to happen, it is essential to develop a profound relationship between the respect for human life—from the moment of conception until the experience of natural death—and a deep love and appreciation for everything created by God. This is stewardship in action: Taking care of, and sharing, all of God’s gifts!

The Oldenburg Franciscans don’t claim responsible stewardship as a value that is theirs alone. All religious orders and all Christians share this responsibility to steward God’s gifts responsibly. Still, there is something particularly Franciscan about an intense love for creation that commands a profound respect for all God’s creatures and all God’s handiwork.

This Lent, let’s spend quality time reflecting on how our loving Creator God has lavished us with gifts and blessings. And let’s renew our commitment to be responsible stewards who take care of, and share, all of God’s gifts.

—Daniel Conway

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